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Disability Sports

Historic World Games open in Berlin: A chance for unity and reparation

The historical significance of the 16th Special Olympics Opening  Ceremony is gigantic. Without exaggeration, the cultural impact of the event that brought to Berlin more the 6000 athletes with intellectual disabilities, rivals events such as Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 election, as the first black President in history.


Less than 90 years after possibly the darkest chapter in recent history, the stadium once a symbol for the Nazi regime and its persecutions based on race and disability, turned into the perfect theatre for the ultimate celebration of humanity.

Admiring hundreds of athletes with diverse intellectual disabilities, parading in joy in front of thousands of enthusiasts, represents an overdue reparation. Their march, accompanied by flags from 176 countries, symbolized both diversity and unity.


What the Special Olympics has become since its creation back in Chicago in 1968, is clearly portrayed by the symbolic gesture made by a representative of each participating team. The athletes carried a bottle of water from their respective countries, and pure into a communal pool at the centre of the stage. This act highlighted the importance of sustainability and conveyed the message that every individual is valuable, and our strength lies in unity.


Being the first sport event of global importance happening since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Special Olympic World Games shed significant light on the conflict.

The powerful display of solidarity was evident through the resounding applause the Ukrainian national team received. With track and field champion Dmytro Podhorskyi carrying the torch, Special Olympics reinforced probably one of its most valuable principles.


Despite their difficult circumstances, the Ukrainians – like many athletes with intellectual disabilities all over the world –  persevered and did not lose hope. This final picture showcases that the purpose of sports extends beyond mere victory; it encompasses participation in various forms, as exemplified by this remarkable sporting event, making this night unforgettable.

Credit: AIPS Media 

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